Ahead of the Curve
In Nashville, the team at PDI become partners in progressive design
By Hollie Deese
Photography by Emily Dorio, Showcase Photography and Rainer Schuertzmann
Chris Barnhizer of Richland Builders isn’t afraid to push the design envelope. With builds in older neighborhoods like Green Hills, Sylvan Park, Hillsboro Village, the Gulch and the Nations that are embracing infill development, his designs are modern and not what one would consider traditional Nashville style. But they soon might be.
“For us it’s really about being ahead of the curve,” Barnhizer says. “I used to go out to Vegas and California and fell in love with the modern architecture. Then I saw that the people there were moving here, and the way that designs were changing, we really saw a need for it.”
And people are responding, with agent and buyer reaction and with sales, giving them the verification that what they are doing is different — and needed.
“Our philosophy is just to be the best in class in design and max everything out from a finish level — really differentiate ourselves from the pack,” he says. “We really spend the money on the finishes.”
Barnhizer says he turns to his designer Cheryl Kittel and the team at PDI Kitchen, Bath & Lighting, including Mary Soeder and Jackie Gibbons, to deliver those innovative features and high end finishes because they have a real understanding of his design aesthetic, even if it isn’t yet a typical Nashville look.
“They really just work extremely great together and select some amazing things,” he says. “And they make sure it gets executed exactly how they envisioned it on the front end.”
Barnhizer began working in Nashville in 2009 and started his own company in 2017. Lately he has been doing more large-scale multifamily builds like The Odyssey, a 75-unit condo project under construction near Centennial Park, as well as modern, single-family residences.
And PDI can help facilitate ordering for projects as big as he needs.
“We had worked with some firms that just didn’t really have the eye and the vision for what we’re wanting to do,” he says. “And Mary has such great feedback — she knows the product so well. And she’s in love with the product. You can tell. She’s always reminding us of the most cutting-edge, cool styles that match our brand. It’s more of a partnership. It’s more like she’s on our design team than just a supplier that we’re buying stuff from.”
Soeder attributes that to the fact so many people in the showroom have been there since they opened in 2014. “We have a lot of experience with the projects and the market,” Gibbons adds. “And we do help all the customers who come in, regardless of how big their project is. So from the time that they walk in through the door until the time that the project has done, we handle it all.”
PDI works to make the process as stress-free as possible, working behind the scenes to address any and all little irritants before the customers even get wind of them.
“We understand what the customer wants, and we’re able to provide it,” Soeder says. “And it’s seamless. They don’t know what we’re doing behind the scenes.”
Even post pandemic, the team at PDI were able to fine-tune their ordering processes to ensure that they had the inventory when they needed it — and to make sure to order in time so that what they wanted would still be available when they needed it.
“It’s like having a trade partner who helps us stay ahead of that. And that’s huge for us,” Barnhizer says.
Small business owners like Katie Shah and India Mayer of Of Note collaborated with the team at PDI on their East Nashville influencer house, Note House. They needed designs and fixtures that were eye-catching enough that style influencers would want to take pictures in front of them over and over again.
PDI also had a hand in the Hinkley Hospitality renovation of the TriStar Bank federal building in Columbia, Tennessee. With a vision to maintain the integrity of the building’s history and complement the 100-year-old brass accents throughout the building, the Echelon fixture from the Lisa McDennon Collection for Hinkley captures all of that with an updated art deco feel.
“PDI is a family-owned company, so it’s very much about relationships,” Soeder says. “We have worked very hard over the past seven years to partner with people in and around the area and to educate ourselves on the process, so we can be like an accessory to the designer.”
And they don’t let things fall apart on delivery. Gibbons and Soeder say they rely heavily on Drew Rico, who handles delivery logistics, and he makes sure the client is happy with the last mile of service.
“We can hit it out of the park everywhere else, but if something happens on the warehouse side it can all fall apart,” Soeder says. “And Drew has done a wonderful job getting his team to understand that they’re an extension of that. We’re an extension of them. We’re all in this together.”